• March



The National Air and Space Museum Short Stories: Women’s Archival Collections

The National Air and Space Museum Archives holds large digitized collections highlighting the contributions of high-profile women, ranging from aviators Louise McPhetridge Thaden and the Ninety-Nines to astronauts Sally K. Ride and Kathryn D. Sullivan. There are also smaller collections, some containing just one to two documents, representing women whose experiences are just as important to telling the full story of women in aviation and space flight.

Mary Emily Rouse Molstad: Can a Pregnant Woman Pilot a Plane?
Mary Emily Rouse Molstad was 26 when she applied for a pilot’s license in 1951. She and her husband, John Molstad, had been married since July 1950 and lived in Springfield, Colorado, a small town in the southeastern corner of the state (population 2000). Molstad owned a Cessna plane and she hoped to be able to fly it in case of an emergency. The Civil Aeronautics Administration determined that she did not meet the physical standards for a pilot’s license “because of pregnancy.” She was informed that she could apply again “3 months after delivery.”

Mary White Gaunt: Air Evacuation Nurse
Mary White enlisted in the US Army as a registered nurse in March 1941. Prior to that, she had served for three years as the night supervisor at Midway Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. The first scrapbook in the Mary White Gaunt Air Evacuation Nurse Materials documents her training at the Army Air Forces School of Air Evacuation and service in the United States in Colorado, Camp Grant, Illinois, and as assistant chief nurse at Truax Field, Wisconsin.

Jean McKay: Mercury Program Dietitian
In April 1961, Captain Jean McKay was serving as the only dietitian in the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General in Washington, DC. She enjoyed her “plum” assignment, which included responsibility for Air Force Medical food service around the world and frequent travel. One morning she received mystery orders to leave for Cape Canaveral the next day for a top secret assignment. She soon learned that she would be joining Project Mercury for its first human spaceflight the next week. Although research and development for the pre-flight dietary guidelines had been done previously at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, McKay was responsible for planning specific menus from the basic guide, purchasing the food and supervising preparation and serving, and conducting nutritional analysis and reporting to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Some of the highlights of the Mercury Project Dietary and Nutritional Guidelines [McKay] collection include documents from the Project Mercury feeding program, information about Whirlpool technology used to support feeding astronauts in space, and McKay’s memories of her time with Project Mercury.

Above are only excerpts of this great collection. Click here, to read full stories.

Story credit: The National Air and Space Museum; https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/short-stories-newly-digitized-womens-archival-collections

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